Caixin
Jan 05, 2018 07:07 PM
SOCIETY & CULTURE

Classes Left Without Classrooms After Central China City, County Crack Down on Illegal Buildings

Local authorities nationwide have used satellite imaging technology in recent years to clamp down on illicit use of land, particularly in rural areas.  Excavators were used to tear down this private kindergarten in Luyi county in Zhoukou, Henan province
Local authorities nationwide have used satellite imaging technology in recent years to clamp down on illicit use of land, particularly in rural areas. Excavators were used to tear down this private kindergarten in Luyi county in Zhoukou, Henan province

Thousands of students have been forced out of school in the Central China city of Zhoukou after their schools were torn down in a crackdown by the city and county governments on illicit buildings.

Builders assisted by excavators began to demolish the private kindergarten (preschool) in Zhoukou’s Luyi county, Henan province, on Sunday, according to Qian Lihong, who built the facility in 2016 for nearly 10 million yuan ($1.54 million).

Qian had about 230 students, some have whom have since found spots in public schools. But most have nowhere to go.

The demolition came as the county authority said Qian’s school was identified by satellite imaging technology in September as a structure that was built without permission.

But Qian said that she had paid nearly 2 million yuan in fines in mid-December for building the school without a land-use license.

Local authorities nationwide have used satellite imaging technology in recent years to clamp down on illicit use of land, particularly in rural areas.

Henan’s provincial Department of Land Resources held a meeting in late November to mobilize resources for a new crackdown using satellite imaging on illegal land development.

In Zhoukou, at least 40 private schools and kindergartens have been demolished — 18 since Dec. 22 alone. Owners of private schools say they have been affected the most.

Zhang Hua, who also lost his private kindergarten in the same county to the clampdown, blasted the government “for killing the donkey the moment it leaves the millstone” by mostly targeting privately owned facilities.

Private investors were encouraged in 2014 to build kindergartens and schools to help tackle a shortage, and they were granted school licenses but not land-use ones.

In April 2016, local authorities began granting licenses for land use only to public schools, leaving the private investors in legal limbo, Zhang said.

Most of his 200 students have no schools to go to, Zhang said.

Qian said she once asked local governments to sell back the school to the government for a small amount or donate to keep it as it is or turn into a nursing home instead of reducing it into rubble, but her pleas fell on deaf ears.

“It’s really heartbreaking when you saw something that you built with your heart and blood be chipped away bit by bit,” she said.

Contact reporter Li Rongde (rongdeli@caixin.com)

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